The metaverse was not built for brands, it was built for people. While that may seem at odds to the plethora of ‘commercialization ready’ platforms we are used to in the performance marketing world, it is not surprising when you consider its birthplace – the gaming community.
However, the metaverse, by its very nature, is infinitely scalable. So given its capacity to attract and entertain huge swathes of the global population, brands are jumping in with unprecedented speed. Many have little idea what they will do when they get there, but given the experimental nature of the metaverse that is not necessarily a bad thing. So, the metaverse will host brands, indeed it is doing so already. The question we are really interested in though is what role can (or will) performance marketers have? Should we be thinking about ROI levels for Decentraland? Do terms like ROI even make sense in the metaverse? Or is the very notion of performance marketing in the metaverse one that is so abhorrent to its founding principles it will never fly?
At Reprise Commerce, we believe our customer flow principles are just as applicable in the metaverse as they are in the real world, and therefore at least planning for future ROI make sense.
Many metaverse commentators are advising brands to move with speed, but also move with care. We agree. If your end game is measured with performance metrics, then do not approach the metaverse in a vacuum. Consider the end-to-end customer journey and map each stage accordingly – of course there are specific nuances in the metaverse, but customers are still customers, so the rule book does not need throwing away just yet.
Our recommended 5 step approach for brands who want to enter the metaverse, but at the same time want a clear commercial return, is outlined below.
1. Evaluate & Plan
Before brands jump headfirst into the metaverse, we recommend that they take stock of how they engage with their customers today. The goal is to identify their audience’s key values and motivators, as well as the types of content they love to engage with. Brands can take rich insights from first party sources like their CRM (Customer Relationship Management), website, apps, and social media accounts and combine this with third party sources like social listening. This should inform the value proposition that brands take into the metaverse. Whilst we actively encourage out of the box thinking, and the adaptation of real-life propositions to better suit virtual communities, it is vital to create an experience that is authentic to your brand.
At this stage, brands may also choose to perform some small-scale test and learn campaigns with metaverse style content on existing platforms. Tactics could include leveraging AR (Augmented Reality), which provides a step towards the metaverse by blending real and virtual, but for a fraction of the risk. Platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and TikTok have their own AR developer tools which makes this type of content increasingly accessible. Leverage these features so that customer can try on clothes, makeup, or even see what items would look like in their homes. Not only could this generate stronger performance from existing channels, but it may eliminate spend wastage when entering the metaverse by informing the type of content you should create for virtual spaces.
2. Educate & Direct
The metaverse can seem like a daunting space for those who are less familiar with it. Whilst Fortnite and Roblox may attract users in their millions, web3 worlds like The Sandbox and Decentraland are less well known by the masses. And despite the growing buzz around digital assets, a sizeable percentage of your potential audience may still be asking themselves what are NFT’s (nonfungible tokens)? And where would I go to buy one?
For this reason, it is important to educate your users on the metaverse – help them to understand where and how to find you. This will also help to build your trust and authority in the space. Build out informational content suited to audiences at varying levels of metaverse literacies across social media, apps or on site. For performance marketers, its crucial to keep SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind to ensure that you rank in key search moments. Beyond digital, also think of ways to stand out from the crowd – perhaps providing metaverse guides for existing customers alongside their physical goods.
Whilst some of your audience may already know their web 2 from their web3, we still need to alert them to your metaverse presence. Focus on communicating with users on platforms where these conversations are happening organically, like Discord, Twitch or Twitter. Paid media is also a crucial channel to leverage at this point to build awareness and excitement for your metaverse launch. Where possible, spend time creating ads that are interactive and immersive like video or instant experiences to maintain a sense of cohesion with the metaverse destination.
Brands could also use virtual influencers to direct users into the metaverse – computer generated brand ambassadors who have their own accounts on platforms like Instagram or TikTok. Brands can either partner with existing virtual influencers such as Miquela, or even create their own, as was done by Yoox. Whilst this latter option may require a higher upfront investment, it poses the opportunity to create ongoing, tailored content for both organic and paid media posts to boost the sales of specific products or ranges.
3. Engage & Excite
It’s time to enter the metaverse!
For brands, the metaverse offers a space to excite their communities via highly immersive experiences. But when designing content, it is important to consider how it will engage audiences time after time, rather than being a limited gimmick. You would not create an immutable commerce website, frozen in time with the same products and content. For brands who are looking to drive performance, the same principle should apply to their virtual strategy.
Some brands are choosing to partake in existing virtual worlds, creating their own lands, running fashion shows, or hosting live music events. Nike and Vans created their own lands in Roblox, complete with virtual stores, where users could buy everything from outfits to skateboards for their avatars. In these instances, Nike and Vans incorporated gamification and incentives to ensure communities returned over time. Here, it’s important to scope out your potential audience size when choosing which world to enter – whilst Roblox has over 200 million monthly active users, Decentraland has less than one million. Other brands are opting to create their own worlds from scratch. This route was taken by Balenciaga who launched a new collection in game format – Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow and Charlotte Tilbury who chose the more ‘traditional’ commercial route of creating a virtual storefront to mirror an instore experience. This offers the benefit of capturing and owning your own data, which can be leveraged across wider marketing efforts to provide users with a cohesive multi-channel experience. By collecting data, brands can also adapt their content to maintain cultural relevancy and a presence in the spaces where their communities are. Not only does this evolve their metaverse performance, but they can also optimize their wider digital or in store efforts where learnings are transferable.
Others have chosen to focus their attention on NFTs. These could exist within existing web3 worlds as clothing, skins, or objects for your avatars. In this space, we saw Burberry partner up with Blankos Block Party to create their playable monogrammed Sharky B NFT. Others choose to focus on NFTs sold on marketplaces, such as Adidas with Bored Ape Yacht Club. Here, brands can employ more traditional product marketing techniques, building and optimizing their offering in line with customer demand and market trends. On the one hand, as the metaverse becomes more interoperable, this may be a popular path to take since it allows users to move their digital assets from one web 3 world to another, advocating for your brand wherever they go. Purchased with crypto such as Ethereum, this also has the added benefit of generating direct revenue (and in turn ROI). On the other hand, however, there has been a sizable consumer backlash against some brands’ move into the NFT space. Coupled with the legal complexities of this route, we may see a downturn in adoption of NFTs in favour of simpler digital assets that don’t require crypto.
For brands, the metaverse is an evolving space. Whilst we certainly expect more features to come that drive revenue, there are already things we can be thinking about to make our users’ experiences shoppable.
Firstly, virtual worlds offer a wealth of new real estate and placements with which to gain traction for brands or products. Brands can work within existing worlds to ensure that their products are featured in high traffic areas. Nowhere is this more controllable than with in-game and e-sport advertising, facilitated by platforms such as Anzu, Admix and Bidstack. They allow brands to purchase inventory on the road or pitch side, which ensures that ads have a native feel and are not too disruptive to gameplay. Advancements in this area means that brands can now use real time data signals to display ads to a highly targeted set of users. While much of this activity is on the periphery of the metaverse today, its direction of travel is clear.
Brands should also adopt their ‘shopper’ mindset when creating any virtual land or stores. Brands must consider everything from where to feature their flagship store, to the products they wish to showcase and how they are displayed within the store. Performance marketers can leverage familiar techniques such as UX reviews, performance data analysis, user research and CRO to remove frictions along the path to purchase.
When it comes to selling physical products, brands must review e-retail sites before selecting the right partners. Gucci, for example, is more likely to sell on Net-a-Porter than eBay. In the same way, brands must review players in the NFT marketplace space, such as The Dematerialised, Bitski and OpenSea. Once marketplaces are selected, brands can then leverage familiar practices associated with ecommerce and e-retail such as the optimization of PDPs (product detail pages) to include clear descriptions, USPs, and brand stories to maximize conversion rates and revenue.
Finally, it is vital to ensure that metaverse experiences are not simply a one off. Brands need to think about their long-term strategy to retain their customers, build lifetime value and get the most of their investment. Tactics during this stage are highly transferable from existing customer retention strategies. For example, brands may want to consider offering loyalty programmes for their digital asset holders. Not only does this incentivize users to make an initial purchase, but it also adds a sense of exclusivity that has rapidly become engrained within the metaverse. So much so, that platforms like Twitter have allowed their userbase to showcase their NFTs as hexagon shaped profile pictures. In this way, we can begin to build out a ‘meta-crm’ that brands can continue to communicate with over time.
Also consider perks within the metaverse itself to ensure that customers continue to return to your spaces. In fact, this year, Decentraland will be running their own digital fashion week, complete with fashion shows and events. Some brands have already begun to consider special experiences for their digital asset or NFT holders to add to a sense of prestige.
In summary, while the metaverse is still nascent, we as performance marketers still have a significant role to play. There are commercial opportunities, and therefore ROI, to gain today and this will only increase. Our recommendation is commercially minded brands should act with haste, but not before they consider their metaverse customer journey.
To speak to one of our experts please do contact us.